ST. PETERSBURG — Jenna DeVito-Roisum felt a pang of sympathy whenever she heard about families that lost children to drowning.
But in the back of her mind, the 39-year-old graphic designer always wondered: Where were the parents?
"I think a lot of people think that way," DeVito-Roisum said.
DeVito-Roisum was no different — until March 27, 2009. That day, her toddler son drowned in his family's backyard pool in Seminole. DeVito-Roisum's husband was checking on the couple's infant daughter and didn't close a door all the way.
Mason Roisum, 2, was only in the water for about two minutes.
"I was very safety-conscious," DeVito-Roisum said. "I thought I knew about drowning. I never thought it would happen to us. But after (Mason's death) I learned I knew hardly anything."
DeVito-Roisum doesn't want that to be the case for other families. On Monday, the Largo resident was in St. Petersburg for the city's "April Pools Day," an event aimed at educating people about pool and water safety.
This year's effort, sponsored by the city, All Children's Hospital, Florida Safe Pools and Smith Fence Co., took place in the waterfront Venetian Isles community. More than 40 volunteers handed out information for parents, people with pools and the general public.
There are about 500 homes the north St. Petersburg neighborhood, and officials said 338 of those have pools. Since 2005, there were 10 preventable drowning incidents in the ZIP code that includes Venetian Isles (33703), according to St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue.
Once a haven for retirees, the neighborhood now is filled with parents pushing strollers, kids on bikes and families whose back yards include Tampa Bay.
"I couldn't live with myself if one of those kids slipped in the water," said Ralph Taddeo, 82, as he watched workers from Smith Fencing install a fence Monday around his back yard. The company donated everything. The Taddeos, whose home is on the water, have been thinking about getting a fence for a while.
Their neighbors started a water safety initiative last November, after the death of 20-month-old Luke Leavengood, who slipped out of his home unnoticed and drowned in a neighbor's pool. The family lived in Venetian Isles.
"There are so many kids in the neighborhood. Little, little kids," said Patricia Taddeo, 77. "We just had to do it."
The Roisums were planning a fence for their partially submerged pool as well, but it hadn't yet been installed.
Investigators believe the toddler followed the dog into the family's pool. No one could revive him.
"Drowning is quick, it's quiet," said DeVito-Roisum, who is studying to become a swim instructor. "Nobody should have to go through this, especially when drowning is preventable."